Prevention is key to child abuse

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month occurs each year in April. We all don blue ribbons on our shirts and the doors of our businesses to promote the prevention of child abuse and neglect. We read and write newspaper articles about how bad the situation is, and indeed it is.

Yet, most people can’t truly fathom what it’s like to be abused or neglected, unless that is, they have been abused or neglected. Statistically speaking, a tremendous number of people have been.

Many people cannot imagine being molested or beaten in their own homes or going without food at the hands of their parents who would rather buy alcohol or cocaine than feed them.

While visiting a friend’s home two years ago, an advertisement came across the TV.

It ended by saying, &uot;Tonight there are children in Alabama who will go to bed without food.&uot;

The woman I was visiting with who grew up in very poor circumstances herself, said out loud, &uot;I don’t any more believe there are children in this state that will go to bed tonight without food than I believe I will.&uot;

I was shocked – more shocked that she couldn’t believe it was true than the fact that it is actually true. Both scenarios are sad and inexcusable.

We don’t know how good we have it until we finally come to the realization of it. Then, how soon we forget.

Thousands of children in Alabama are abused and neglected. We have children who are starved to death, beaten beyond recognition, hospitalized and killed at the hands of their own parents. I won’t paint graphic pictures, though there are many – they are not pretty.

For anyone to believe child abuse and neglect doesn’t happen every single day in our country and our state is choosing to turn a deaf ear to a reality that scars souls and destroys innocent lives.

In addition, we pay for these lives as a society in many ways. It’s a pay now or pay later type of game. Either way, society pays for child abuse and neglect.

We pay for programs to help those who abuse and we pay for programs to help those who have been abused. We pay to implement programs geared at helping troubled youth, failing students and faltering, often crime-ridden adults because they weren’t helped earlier. Their needs were not met then, so we are paying for them now.

Whether our paying for problems associated with child abuse and neglect is fair is debatable. The fact that we do is not – it costs us billions of dollars but more importantly, it costs us thousands of precious children’s’ lives who never get to live to their fullest potential. Some of them never get to live at all.

We as a society can pay now or we can pay later. We can choose to pay and reap rewards and receive a financial and emotional return on our investments, or we can be forced to pay in ways that may be non-refundable. About 75 percent of funding for child abuse is used after the fact instead of beforehand when it is needed for prevention.

Prevention is the key to stopping child abuse before it starts. Make a commitment today to find worthy organizations to contribute your money, time and talents to – organizations that are specifically geared toward the prevention of child abuse.

Don’t be caught thinking child abuse and neglect doesn’t occur. Be caught trying to do everything you possibly can to stop it.

The popular saying goes: &uot;Denial is not just a river in Egypt.&uot;

Please don’t get in the boat – denial is a deadly, long upstream ride.

Child abuse and neglect occur every single day in our state. Take an active role today in helping contribute toward stopping it. Prevention is the key that will unlock the doors to child abuse and neglect forever.

Beth Chapman serves as Alabama’s state auditor. She resides with her husband, James, and her two sons, Taylor and Thatcher, in North Shelby County. She can be reached at